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Herm Edwards becomes the fifth African-American coach in NFL history.

Edwards accepts offer to coach Jets

Bucs assistant head coach will be fifth African-American coach in NFL history.

By RICK STROUD

© St. Petersburg Times, published January 18, 2001


EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- The man remembered for the Miracle in the Meadowlands will return there as the New York Jets coach.

Bucs assistant head coach Herm Edwards accepted the position Wednesday and will fly to New York today from Mobile, Ala., where he was attending Senior Bowl workouts. He will be introduced as coach in a news conference at noon at the Jets training facility in Hempstead, N.Y.

Edwards, 46, is expected to sign a four-year contract worth nearly $1-million a season.

Edwards becomes the third active African-American coach and the fifth in NFL history.

Forty of the league's past 41 coaching hires had been white. Ray Rhodes, fired after an 8-8 first season with the Packers in 1999, is the only other black coach to be hired since Tony Dungy in 1996.

"I'm excited for Herman, No. 1, and happy for the NFL because I think they're getting a good, young coach into the mix," Dungy said. "I feel a sense of pride and happiness. Herm and I go back 23 years. We've been through a lot together in Kansas City and here.

"It makes me feel good people look at our program and see good things."

Edwards is the fourth assistant Dungy will have to replace.

The Bucs are searching for an offensive coordinator after firing Les Steckel Jan. 9, a linebackers coach to replace Lovie Smith, who was hired by the Rams as defensive coordinator, and a quality control coach to replace Wendell Avery, who resigned in November.

"We went so long with not having any changes, and now we've got to hire four coaches," Dungy said. "But it's exciting and not something you don't plan for. You understand if you do win and you are successful, you're going to lose people."

Still, Edwards had plenty of support from the Bucs.

"Herman Edwards has been successful at every challenge he has ever faced," general manager Rich McKay said. "And I don't think this one will be any different. The Jets are fortunate to be getting such a quality guy and everyone at the Buccaneers wishes him well."

Edwards could not be reached Wednesday. He emerged as the leading candidate even before his seven-hour interview with Jets general manager Terry Bradway and owner Woody Johnson on Monday.

Edwards and Bradway worked together before. Edwards scouted and coached the defensive backs in Kansas City from 1990-95, when Bradway was personnel director.

The Jets also interviewed Giants assistant head coach Maurice Carthon, Jaguars defensive coordinator Dom Capers and Bills defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell.

"This is a great opportunity. There aren't a lot of opportunities for African-Americans," Bucs defensive back Brian Kelly said. "There simply aren't many (African-American coaches in the NFL), so I have to be happy for him on that count."

Edwards has no experience as head coach or coordinator..

But he has 23 years' experience in the NFL as a player, assistant or scout. The past five seasons he has served as assistant head coach under Dungy while coaching defensive backs.

Popular among players, he is known for his teaching and communication skills.

"He did monumental things for me and my career. He was able to relate the game to me as a coach," defensive back Ronde Barber said. "He was more like a father figure."

In New York, Edwards is best known for recovering a fumble by Giants quarterback Joe Pisarcik and returning it 26 yards for a score with 31 seconds remaining in Philadelphia's 19-17 "Miracle in the Meadowlands" in 1978.

Edwards inherits an experienced Jets team that last season started 6-1 and swept the AFC East champion Miami Dolphins but failed to reach the playoffs, losing its last three games to finish 9-7.

"I thing Herm will bring some of that same mindset, taking young players, developing them and building something for the long run," Dungy said.

He replaces Al Groh, who resigned to take the coaching job at the University of Virginia.

"It's not like the cupboard is bare," Edwards told Newsday earlier this week. "They just didn't finish it down the stretch or they'd be in the playoffs ... I think the first thing that I realized is that it's a fresh start."

Edwards met with the Lions on Monday and had an interview scheduled with the Houston Texans next week.

- Staff writer Roger Mills contributed to this report.

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